When Whistler gets to the small white waiting room that's part of Limbo, Buffy Summers has already wrenched one of the metal legs off a chair and is swinging it back and forth as though testing how effective it would be at bashing someone's head in.
She whirls around the moment he appears. “Whistler.”
“Hey, Summers. Listen, you bought it in that last big fight.”
“I figured. We close the portal?”
“Yeah. Coven got it all squared away,” he assures her. It'd been one of the apocalypses that were practically commonplace, nowadays.
She narrows her eyes at him. “So what's the deal, Whistler? Are you my ride to the Good Place?”
He winces. “Not exactly.”
“Explain.” The glare she's leveling at him makes his stomach try to climb up his throat and escape.
“Well, you see, what happened is-”
“Five. Words. Or. Less.” Her tone makes it clear they'll be revisiting the whole ribcage-hat thing if he's not succinct.
“Rosenberg screwed up your resurrection.”
The Slayer slumps in one of the waiting-room chairs and puts one hand over her eyes, even as the other hand and its' melee weapon beats an impatient tattoo on the magazine-scattered coffee table. “Jesus Christ, of course she did. All right, give it to me straight; what's the damage?”
“Okay, so there are different chunks that make up Buffy Summers. You've got your soul, and your Slayer-demon, and your essence...your personality and way of looking at the world and stuff like that. Normally, they're separate, they fit together like puzzle pieces but they're distinct, and you can take one away without damaging the others. That's how vampires get made, right, soul is yanked away and the demon snaps into place next to it.”
Her mouth says “Go on,” but her eyes say, I already don't like where this is going, and may yet kill the messenger.
“Rosenberg's spell mushed those three bits up together. In fact, the only reason her spell to activate the Potentials even worked was because Faith was already a slayer. If she'd tried to pull that Slayer piece from you to start the chain, it woulda been like yanking on a piece of concrete with your bare hands tryin' to make it into water, gravel and cement. Ain't gonna happen. And the Slayer part's immortal, even though your body isn't, which is why you're here instead of the Good Place.”
She crosses her arms. The fact that she put down her weapon to do it doesn't make him feel any safer. “So you're telling me I can't die.”
“Until we can figure out how to un-mix that concrete? No. And unless we're going to fuck things up so spectacularly that the First Evil has a chance to gain a foothold again, we need time to work that out. So right now, the plan is to send you back to your body when you were first Called. And you need to stay alive as long as possible. Longer than this-twelve years is not gonna cut it. And no time-outs this time.”
“Me dying wasn't a time-out,” she snarls.
“From a cosmic perspective, it kinda was-”
“Whistler. Stop talking before I put you in a cosmic time-out.” Her eyes are actually glowing like a vampire's, but green instead of gold.
“Right, okay, shutting up.” He holds up both hands, palm-out, I come in peace.
She paces the small white room for a few minutes, but it doesn't seem to be helping any. If the way the air is crackling is any indication, time to think is making her more pissed off, and not less. Finally she says, “Are you going to tell me that I can't change anything that happened in the first timeline?”
“No. First of all, we want you to not die, and the First to not rise, which means you kinda have to change some things. And second of all, there'd be no point.”
“See, the thing is, Summers, timelines are delicate. From a cosmic perspective, you taking a step an inch ahead of where you did before can change just as much as you going back to the start of things and having yourself a merry killing spree. Even if you tried to stick to the previous timeline as close as you can remember, things still wouldn't be exactly how they were before.”
She rakes her hands through her hair and looks like she's thinking. “Can I get Called early?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you said I can't not be the Slayer, so can you send me back earlier, and I can be the Slayer instead of the girls before me, so they get to live?”
That sounds like something his Bosses might go for. “How much earlier?”
“Let's say, three Slayers before me.”
Whistler considers that, gets a response. No explanation, because there isn't usually. NO. “I'm getting a negatory on that.”
“Above my pay-grade. Must be something important that Carmen de la Cruz needs to do, that you can't.” Two Slayers before. Whistler pictures it, Buffy Summers getting Called at that moment.
“How about two Slayers early? You'd get Called on March 20th, 1994. The Vernal Equinox. And Svetlana Bogdanović and India Cohen will get to live normal lives.”
“There won't be, like, local apocalypses that they needed to stop?”
“Summers, I know you got the impression that apocalypses happen at least once a year, but it ain't usually like that. Before having more than one Slayer threw off the Balance, they were every decade at best.”
“So when I died and came back and there were two Slayers, that threw off the Balance, and suddenly we had apocalypse season. And then we activated all the Potentials, and all of a sudden apocalypses were springing up all over.”
"Well, crap. The Scoobies didn't throw things off?”
“Uh-uh. They didn't have any special powers, and they were doing it out of their own free will. The Powers can only have so many Champions at one time. Humans helping 'cause they want to isn't prophesied or taken into account by the PTB's.”
“Once he got a soul? Threw things off more. Hel-lo First Evil,” Whistler agrees.
“Because Angel was already doing the Champion-Redemption deal.”
“But Spike before that, with no soul, was fine.”
“Before he got a soul, he wasn't a Champion according to their rules.”
“Their rules are stupid.”
Whistler pauses, then says, “That is the sound of no one arguing with you.”
“So you're going to send me back to my own body, at the moment that Svetlana Bogdanović was Called.”
“All right, I'm ready, do it.”
Whistler closes his eyes briefly. Thank the Powers, I survived this conversation. “Done.”